Chernobyl Vodka Made From Apples Grown Near Nuclear Disaster Seized by Police

The first bottles in a batch of artisan vodka made from apples grown near Ukraine's Chernobyl nuclear power plant have been seized by the authorities.

The alcohol is the first consumer product to have come out of the forbidden zone in the Ukraine since the nuclear catastrophe occurred in Ukraine in 1986.

However, about 1,500 bottles of 'ATOMIK' spirits were confiscated on March 19 and seized following a Ukrainian security services investigation, the company behind the product said.

The Chernobyl Spirit Company is a self-described social enterprise aiming to produce "high quality artisan vodka" from land in the areas of Ukraine abandoned after the Chernobyl accident, its website states.

Atomik Alcohol
The first bottles of an 'artisanal spirit' made using apples grown near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant have been seized by Ukrainian authorities. University of Portsmouth

The confiscated bottles were made from apples from the Narodychi District, one of the still inhabited areas most affected by the accident.

"Our first production of ATOMIK Apple Spirit has been seized by Ukrainian security services for reasons unclear to us, the company said in a statement last week. "The first batch of 1500 bottles for shipment to the UK was seized on leaving the distillery and remains in the hands of Kyiv prosecutors."

Officers took the shipment from a truck at a distillery in the Carpathians to the Kyiv Prosecutor's office, BBC News reported. An investigation by the Ukrainian security services is said to be ongoing.

"It seems that they are accusing us of using forged Ukrainian excise stamps, but this doesn't make sense since the bottles are for the UK market and are clearly labeled with valid UK excise stamps," University of Portsmouth Professor Jim Smith, a scientist who is part of the team behind the drink, said.

Smith has spent many years studying the exclusion zone before setting up the Chernobyl Spirit Company with Ukrainian colleagues.

"Our group of Ukrainian and UK scientists has been studying the transfer of radioactivity to crops both in the main Exclusion Zone (CEZ) and in the Narodychi District within the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement, where land can't officially be used for agriculture, but people still live," the company explains on their website. "The research shows that in many areas land could now be used to produce crops which are safe to eat."

The team says they are committed to the economic development of the area and have pledged at least 75 percent of profits from sales of ATOMIK will go to supporting communities in the affected areas and wildlife conservation.

"Many thousands of people are still living in the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement where new investment and use of agricultural land is still forbidden," Smith said.

This is part of the reason he and his colleagues adjusted their recipe to make an apple-based spirit from apples grown in the Narodichi district immediately outside the exclusion zone, where agriculture and development is permitted but highly restricted.

"We hope this issue can be resolved so that we can continue our work trying to help people affected by the devastating social and economic impacts Chernobyl had on communities," Dr. Gennady Laptev, one of the company's co-owners and a Chernobyl 'liquidator' who worked at the site in the first weeks after the accident, said.

Elina Smirnova, the lawyer representing the company in the Ukrainian court, believes Kyiv prosecutors have violated Ukrainian law.

"This case is a clear example of violation of Ukrainian Law by the Kyiv Prosecutors and the SBU," she said. "They have targeted a foreign company which has tried to establish an ethical 'white' business to first of all help Ukraine. The actions of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies are damaging the reputation of Ukraine as an open country for doing business. We still believe that the truth will win."

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement are areas stretching more than 2600 square kilometers (1003 square miles) around the nuclear reactor near the city of Pripyat which are still under restricted access and legislation.

Newsweek has contacted The Chernobyl Spirit Company for comment.